Home Safe Home

August 4th, 2017

Home is a place you should feel safe and secure. Sometimes, we take it for granted and unfortunately, we do need to remain vigilant about things we do that could compromise our safety. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Everyone loves an inviting home including burglars. Make sure it looks occupied and is difficult to break in.
    • Always lock outside doors and windows even if you’re only gone for a brief time.
    • Lock gates and fences.
    • Leave lights on when you leave; consider timers to automatically control the lights.
    • Keep your garage door closed even when you’re home; don’t tempt thieves with what you have in your garage.
    • Suspend your mail and newspaper delivery when you’re out of town or get a neighbor to pick it up for you.
  • Posting that you’re out of town or away from home on social networks is like advertising your home is unprotected.
  • Equally dangerous could be allowing certain social network sites to track your location.
  • Don’t leave keys under doormats, in flowerpots or the plastic rocks; thieves know about those hiding places and even more than you can think.
  • Trim the shrubs from around your home; don’t give criminals a place to hide.
  • Use exterior motion detectors and yard lighting.
  • Have an alarm system and use it when you leave home and go to bed.
  • Put 3 ½” deck screws in door plates and door hinges.
  • Have good deadbolts on all exterior doors.
  • Exterior doors should be solid core.

Other People’s Money for College

July 24th, 2017

Consider the goal of funding a child’s college education in the future. If “other people’s money” in the form of a scholarship is not a possibility, there still may be another way to use some “other people’s money.”

The mutual fund’s growth depends on the value of the money invested. Rental real estate benefits because a 20% down payment controls a much larger asset because you’re using “other people’s money.” Leverage allows the investor to profit not only from the amount of cash invested but from the value of the investment.A $25,000 investment into a mutual fund paying 5% would earn $1,250 in the first year. Alternatively, the $25,000 as a 20% down payment to purchase a $125,000 rental home appreciating 3% a year would have gone up by $3,750 or three times that of the mutual fund in the first year.

With a 20% down payment and current interest rates, a typical rental would have a positive cash flow. In ten years, the equity could be $75,000. On the other hand, the $25,000 initial investment in a mutual fund earning 5% annually would only grow to about $40,000 in the same 10 years. It would require an additional $2,700 each year to reach the same $75,000 value.

Leverage is just one of the many benefits that make rental real estate the IDEAL investment. Whether you are saving for higher education, retirement or wealth accumulation, consider rental real estate. Using single-family homes as investments are attractive because homeowners have a better understanding than many other investments and self-management is a possibility.

Assumptions are an Alternative

July 17th, 2017

In the late 80’s, both FHA and VA began requiring buyers to qualify to assume their mortgages. The main reason there haven’t been many assumptions in the past 25 years is that interest rates have been steadily going down and if a person has to qualify, they might as well do it on a new loan and get a lower interest rate.

Based on projections by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the MBA and NAR, rates for the second half of 2017 and 2018 are expected to be higher. When interest rates on new mortgages are higher than the rates of assumable FHA and VA mortgages in the recent past, it becomes more advantageous to assume the existing mortgages.

FHA and VA loans originated with lower than current interest rates have great advantages for buyers and sellers.

  1. Interest rate won’t change for the qualified buyer
  2. Lower interest rate means lower payments
  3. Lower closing costs than originating a new mortgage
  4. Easier to qualify for an assumption than a new loan
  5. Lower interest rate loans amortize faster than higher ones
  6. Equity grows faster because loan is further along the amortization schedule
  7. Assumable mortgage could make the home more marketable

An Assumption Comparison can help determine the savings and financial benefits of an assumable mortgage with a lower rate.

It’s not far, if you know the way

July 14th, 2017

“It’s not far, if you know the way.” What this expression implies is that you could have a long way to go if you don’t know where you’re going or how to get there. Just like reading a map, there are some definite steps that will improve your success in buying a home in today’s market.

  • Call for a recommendation of a trusted mortgage professional and an inspector.Know your credit score – the best mortgage rates are available to borrowers with the highest scores. Unless you know what your credit score is at all three major credit bureaus, you don’t really know what rate you’ll have to pay.
  • Clean up your credit – it is estimated that about 90% of credit reports have errors. Some are not serious but others could affect a borrower from getting the loan they want. It is your responsibility to know what is on your different reports and correct them if possible. You’re entitled to a free copy of your credit report each year from Experian, Trans Union and Equifax.
  • Get pre-approved – Taking the time to make a loan application with a qualified lender even before you start looking at homes will provide peace of mind, make sure that you are looking at the “right” homes and may help you negotiate the best price on the home you select.
  • Do your homework – when you find the home that meets your needs and desires, get the home inspected and research the tax assessments, school ratings, crime activity, possible zoning changes and comparable sales in the area.

Family & Friends Mortgage

July 10th, 2017

Anytime a lender and borrower can agree on rates and terms, it can be a good match but IRS has specific rules that govern the transaction especially when the parties are family or friends.

Sometimes, a friends and family situation might have a less than normal interest rate on the mortgage. However, the rate charged in the note is regulated by the minimum applicable federal rate which is published monthly by IRS based on current Treasury securities. For July 2017, the rate is 2.57% for terms over nine years.The loan must be done in a business-like manner with a written note specifying the loan amount, interest rate, term and collateral. IRS requires that the mortgage be a recorded lien to allow the interest deduction.

The seller must report the interest paid to them along with the name, address and Social Security number on schedule B when the buyer uses the property as their principal residence.  A mortgage between family and friends can be good for both parties. It may allow the borrower a slightly lower rate without the expenses of a traditional lender while giving the note holder a higher rate than they can earn in available investments.

Your tax professional can guide the transaction whether you’re a buyer or a seller and your real estate professional can help arrange to have the documents drawn and filed.

Don’t Have a CLUE?

July 7th, 2017

If you haven’t heard of a CLUE report, it has nothing to do with the table game searching for a murderer. It is a report showing the insurance claims on your home and car for the past five to seven years.
For that reason, similar to verifying the accuracy of your credit report, it is important to check out the CLUE report on your home and car. The reports are free and there is a process for correcting mistakes.This database is used by insurance companies to evaluate risks and determine rates. C.L.U.E. stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange. Rates can be increased not only due to legitimate claims but data entry errors also. Sometimes, simply asking a question without filing a claim can be logged as a claim.

An interesting and sometimes costly surprise occurs during the home buying process. The claim experience of the prior seller could impact the price of the premium of the new buyer. For that reason, you can ask for a copy of the CLUE report on the home you’re interested in buying prior to writing a contract.

Down Payment Problem – Are You Sure?

July 5th, 2017

There is increasing difficulty for first-time home buyers to save for their down payment as indicated in the graph.  Several factors that contribute to this trend include rising rents, rising home prices, student loan debt and flat wages.

Nine out of ten non-owners believe they need ten percent or more for a down payment. The typical down payment for first-time buyers is six percent. VA has 100% loan programs as well as USDA for certain qualifying areas and buyers. FHA is known for 3.5% down payments. And FNMA and Freddie Mac have down payments as low as 3% and 5%.Some would-be buyers feel they cannot buy a home today but a large part of those decisions may be based on inaccurate assumptions.

There are gift provisions available for buyers who have an “angel” who would like to help them with their down payment.

There are ways to borrow against a person’s qualified retirement program for a down payment. It isn’t necessarily limited to the buyer but could include a relative. Interestingly, a son or daughter can borrow against their retirement to benefit their parents.

In some respects, having good credit and sufficient income is more important than the down payment. Don’t rely on “common knowledge.” Get expert advice and counsel to see if there is a way to advance your dream of owning a home.

Emergency Kit for the Car

June 19th, 2017

Mickey Mantle said “If I knew I was going to live this long, I’d have taken better care of myself.”

Similarly, if people planning their summer travel knew they were going to have an emergency, they would have the right things available. Only 5% of drivers carry all recommended emergency supplies in their cars.

Reflective hazard triangle or road flaresThe Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that all American have some basic supplies on hand in order to survive for at least three days if an emergency occurs. Some of these things would be more important if you lived or traveled in remote areas.

  • Spare tire
  • Jumper cables
  • First-aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Crucial medications
  • Emergency radio with batteries
  • Bottled water for each person and pet in your car
  • Non-perishable, high-calorie food
  • Distress signal flag
  • Matches or lighter

During cold weather, additional items are recommended:

  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Blankets and extra warm clothing
  • Road salt or cat litter to help with tire traction
  • Tarp for working outside in weather

It is recommended that emergency supplies should be checked at least twice a year to see that all of the items are in working order and in good condition. It is important that items are replaced if any of them are used during the year.

The American Red Cross is among many sources where emergency preparedness kits and supplies can be purchased.

What Can You Expect?

June 12th, 2017

Businesses must treat customers fairly if they expect to do business with them again or get recommendations to their friends. Customers of stores like Nordstrom’s understand that a salesperson is an employee and represents the company.

The duties a buyer or seller can expect to receive from a real estate salesperson or broker include but are not limited to honesty, accountability, full disclosure, representation and reasonable skill and care. Buyers and sellers might additionally expect representation, obedience, loyalty and confidentiality.  State laws can differ on specific duties.The line becomes less clear in some industries, especially ones that involve real estate. Agency is a legal relationship authorizing a person to act for or in the place of another. It involves responsibilities that exceed treating a person fairly.

Mortgage and title officers are limited in their duties to the buyer to honesty and accountability and specific requirements under the federal Real Estate Settlement and Procedures Act.

A special relationship with a real estate agent makes it advantageous to have them coordinate efforts with the other professionals in the home buying process. Since most buyers’ and sellers’ transactions are infrequent, the agent can bring valuable experience to the transaction.

Every buyer and seller should discuss the level of service they expect from the real estate professional they work with. Another good question is what happens if the purchase and sale are within the same company.

Hands-Only CPR

June 7th, 2017

Hands-only CPR can save lives.  The American Heart Association states that “Almost 90% of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die.  CPR, especially if performed in the first few minutes of cardiac arrest, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.”  Most people who survive a cardiac emergency are helped by a bystander.

  1. Check for responsiveness – shake the person and shout “Are you OK?” 2.)
  2. The victim should be flat on their back preferably on the floor. Place the heel of one hand on the center of the victim’s chest and place the heel on top of the other hand lacing your fingers together. Lock your elbows and compress the chest forcefully; make sure you lift enough to let the chest recoil.Call 9-1-1 – either tell someone to call or make the call yourself.
  3. Compress – Push hard and fast in the center of the chest at a rate of 100 per minute.

Chest compressions should be continued until the person shows obvious life-like breathing, the scene becomes unsafe, an AED (automatic external defibrillator) becomes available, or a trained responder takes over the emergency treatment.

Alternating mouth-to-mouth breaths is not necessary using this method. Compressions are adequate except in drowning or drug overdose situations where 30 chest compressions are followed by two mouth-to-mouth breaths.

Watch this two-minute video and consider taking instructions from the Red Cross or other qualified provider. Every household should have at least one person trained in life-saving skills.